South Fellowship Church

Fear VS. Trust

Major themes unify the story of the bible. These patterns help us learn, but they also appear because humans repeatedly behave in the same ways. One of those patterns is the tension between trusting God’s plan rather than taking matters into our own hands. The characters in the bible struggle to trust what God tells them. If we are honest, we often struggle with the same thing. Why is that? The answer is fear.

You can see this pattern active in the life of Abraham over and over again. God asks him to do something counterintuitive, like leave his family. Sometimes Abraham trusts God and the results are beautiful. Other times he lets his fear act against God’s instructions. God keeps inviting Abraham to live differently than the people around him. Upon first glance, that may sound unfair or unreasonable for God to ask of a person. When you reflect on the horrible evil and suffering that results from people’s natural way of living, you might see why God makes alternative suggestions.

So how does this relate to fear? Fear is the motivating force behind many of humanity’s evil and destructive actions. In an attempt to preserve our safety and comfort, we do things that cause harm to others. When you fill the world with many people living in fear, there is a lot of damage. God seems to invite us to trust him and his design for the world. What if your fears are one of the worst guides for life? What if God is actually in control and can care for you? Would that free you up to live differently?

What threads of fear are in your story? Do you fear being left out? Do you fear not having enough money? Take a moment in prayer and offer those fears to God. Ask him to help you trust that he sees, knows, and can care for you. Now ask yourself, how might I care for someone else if I am no longer afraid of the things I normally am?

Fear VS. Trust2022-04-03T21:00:35-06:00

Men Were Very Much Afraid

Now Abraham journeyed from there toward the south country and dwelt between Kadash and Shur, and lived for a time in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah, his wife, “She is my sister”; and Abimelech, king of Gerar sent and took Sarah into his harem.

But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said,”Behold you are a dead man, because of the woman you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” But Abimelech had not come near her; so he said, “Lord, will you slay a people who are just and innocent? Did not the man tell me, ‘She is my sister?’ And she said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of heart and innocence of hands I have done this.”

Then God said to him in the dream,”Yes, I know you did this in the integrity of your heart, for it was I who kept you back and spared you from sinning against me; therefore I did not give you occasion to touch her. So now restore to the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her to him, know that you shall surely die, you and all that are yours.”

So Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called his servants, and told them all these things; and the men were exceedingly filled with reverence and fear.
Then Abimelech Called Abraham and said to him,”What have you done to us? How have I offended you that you should bring on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me what ought not be done to anyone.”

And Abimelech said to Abraham,”What did you see in us, that justified you in doing such a thing as this?”

And Abraham said,”Because I thought, surely there is no reverence or fear of God in all this place ; and they will slay me because of my wife.” (Genesis 20:1-11 AMP)

As a child, the last family with whom I lived was an aunt and uncle. I would lie out of fear, because if I told the truth I could guarantee that I would get punished somehow. When I came to Jesus as a 13 year old, it got worse. My aunt was down on the church and was determined to “put the fear of God in me” by what she said and did. I equated fear of the person I could see with being afraid of God who I couldn’t see. It took a long time for me to learn that fearing God also meant loving him with all my heart, soul, and mind because he loves me.

So in a way, I can understand why Abraham deceived Abimelech about Sarah. Abraham had gone out in faith in answer to God’s call and he had received an amazing promise, but the road was long, the years passed and there was much to learn in the waiting. Abraham heard God, but couldn’t see him, while the possibility of danger from men was all too visible.

Abimelech was able to hear God in his dream, defend himself to God, recognize how he had been protected from sinning against God, find out Abraham’s motives, and promptly obey God’s order to return Sarah.

It seems to me Abraham and Abimelech needed each other: Abimelech’s reverence for and obedience to God, as a reminder to Abraham, and Abraham’s obedience to God in praying for Abimelech.

Right now I’m overwhelmed with all the stories of people in the Bible. I’m hanging on tight to how God searches and knows me, how he knows each of us (Psalm 139), how Jesus prayed for us (John 17), and how Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 5: 9-13). Join me in praying for each other these days before Easter.

Men Were Very Much Afraid2022-04-03T20:59:21-06:00

Fear Is A Liar

So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. (I Kings 19:2-3 NIV)

Elijah’s story in I Kings 17-19 is fascinating. Elijah was miraculously provided for by God, in I Kings 17:1-6, he participated in God’s provision for a widow and her son. Then in I Kings 17: 7-16, he prayed and raised her son from the dead. In I Kings 17:17-24, he participated in and witnessed God’s great triumph over the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. And in I Kings 18:19-46, Elijah was at the pinnacle of his ministry, yet when Jezebel threatened to kill him, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life,” (I Kings 19:3a). Why? Elijah had personally witnessed God’s incredible power to save, to provide, and to protect. Why was Elijah afraid? Why are we afraid? Shouldn’t Elijah’s and our past faith, our past witnessing of miracles and God’s past provision for us keep us from being afraid?

Jesus spoke to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33). Fear is something we have to deal with while we are on this earth. But Jesus has overcome this world, Jesus has won the war, and we know the ending and where we will spend eternity. We will have difficulties and troubles and storms in this life. But – we can trust Jesus to be with us, to walk beside us, to guide us and to help us to not let fear keep us from doing everything God wants us to do. When we listen to our fear only, we fail to trust God. Fear tells us we are worth nothing, we are having no effect, our ministry is worthless and we might be better dead. Elijah felt this way, too (I Kings 19:4-8). But in I Kings 19:9-18, we look at the end of the story, God spoke to Elijah in a still, small voice. God assures Elijah he is valuable, this his ministry is not done, and he is not alone. Fear can prevent us from seeing our storm, ourselves, and our impact on others – from a Godly perspective.

If you struggle with fear, or with believing the lies fear tells you, perhaps this book may be a helpful resource: What Are You Afraid Of? by Dr. David Jeremiah. It has some good insights into how we can overcome fear with faith.

Fear Is A Liar2022-04-03T20:55:04-06:00

No Fear of God in This Place?

Are you afraid the truth of Scripture is respected only by those who acknowledge Jesus as their Lord? Do you believe cultures different from yours, philosophically, geographically, and historically, are alien to God’s influence? Do those fears affect your interactions with those who seem hostile to God?

You’re not the first person of faith to let this kind of fear influence your thoughts and actions. Abraham exhibited fear when he and his wife Sarah traveled in countries where it seemed unlikely the people and their rulers would recognize or respect the God they worshiped. 

Genesis 12:10-20 records Abraham asking his wife to pose as just his sister, because he thought Egyptians had little respect for marriage and might kill him to steal her. When Pharaoh’s servants then claimed her for the royal harem, consequently Pharaoh’s entire household suffered a powerful intervention by the God of the Universe and Abraham saw Pharaoh respond in an unexpected way.

Genesis 20 records Abraham capitulating to the same fear, yet again. This time he and Sarah were in Gerar where Abimelech was king. Again, this king claimed Sarah as his wife. Again, God intervened supernaturally, but this time in Abimelech’s dreams. God saved Sarah twice, not only to preserve her as the mother of the son of God’s Promise but also from being violated.

Here’s a truth of Scripture illustrated by these two narratives: 

He (Jesus) said to them, “Have you not read that He Who made them in the first place made them man and woman? It says, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and his mother and will live with his wife. The two will become one.’ So they are no longer two but one. Let no man divide what God has put together.” (Matthew 19:4-6 NLV)

Do you believe Jesus’ words are unshakable truth? Do you believe those who might never acknowledge Jesus as Lord are haunted by this truth and other truths of Scripture? Have you allowed your mind to minimize God’s tremendous power because of fear?

Abraham and Sarah found God was not only King of their tiny, tribal encampment in the midst of hostile environments, but King of all cultures. There is no land or culture where the God of Scripture isn’t sovereign. Practice acknowledging that God reigns over cultural threats you fear as you listen to this song: This is My Father’s World.

No Fear of God in This Place?2022-04-03T20:52:28-06:00

How Do You Really Feel | Week 6

The Abraham story circles around a tension between fear and trust. God invites Abram to take steps of trust, yet Abram wrestles with fear despite saying “yes” to trusting God. We find Abram fearing others, harm, God not coming through for him, loss, and death.

Fear deceives Abram, making him a liar on multiple occasions. Fear lies to us, too. Often, we live out of distrusting fear when are needs are not being met, and we quickly fall captive to fear and function from a false version of ourselves.

It’s not all that easy to rid ourselves of fear. Especially when some fear is necessary. Fear gives us proper respect for authority. Fear can even save us from harm. God gives us a gift in fight or flight response. The trouble is when fear tells us we cannot trust anyone or anything – including God.

Almost every time an angelic being arrives on the scene or when God is about to do something major, God’s response to our fear, is a gentle reminder, “Do not be afraid.” His reminder for us is the same, “You don’t have to fear when God is near.”

Jesus offers us the safety of his presence. The psalmist puts it this way. “Even when I walk in the darkness valley, I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). There is no circumstance where God’s presence cannot find us. Under Jesus’ reign, we have nothing to fear – including death. But we must seek him in our fear.

  1. Get Honest … What are you afraid of? What makes you fear this? Where do you think this reason for fear comes from? Tell Jesus about what’s behind your present fear.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus has to say concerning this fear.
  3. Walk Anew … What invitation does Jesus have for you in your fear?
How Do You Really Feel | Week 62022-04-03T20:48:39-06:00

As We Forgive Our Debtors

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:9a-10,12)

In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You won’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part. (Matthew 6:14-15 MSG)

When I go to Our Father in heaven to ask him to forgive my debts, some of them are specific to my relationship with him. These may include not obeying a direct command to do something or not do something.

Sometimes it is my debt to my family, friends, or neighbor for something I did or said that caused them pain. I need to go and ask their forgiveness before coming to Our Father to ask him to forgive me (Matthew 5:23-24).

Forgiving is hard when someone has done something to wound me, my family, or someone else I love. Especially when there is no desire on their part to acknowledge what they did. All too often the pain becomes resentment and bitterness which ultimately affects more than just that relationship.

My aunt (my father’s sister) who raised me after my parents died, had a lifetime of bitter resentment against her father which caused issues within the family and had consequences with her physical health. In my adulthood, the last conversation I had with her, she mentioned that the next day would be the 21st anniversary of her father’s death and how she still couldn’t think of him without bitterness. I said, “Aunt, you are too grand of a woman to continue letting this poison you! It’s time to let it go!” We ended our conversation at about 7:30 p.m. At 4:00 a.m. the phone rang and my husband answered. He told him she was having a heart spell and the ambulance was at the door to take her to the hospital. He said we’d come as soon as we could. At 6:00 a.m. the hospital called to say she had died.

My husband said that when he hung up the phone with her that he had never heard her sound so good. The hope that hugs my heart is, maybe between the time we talked and when she died, she released it all and herself into our Father’s hands.

When I am tempted to hang on to a grievance, there are several ways I provide a visual for releasing the person or situation into Our Father’s hands: Sometimes I draw a cross and a prayer to remind me of what Jesus has done for us all (Isaiah 53) and I have also pulled up a weed from my garden and pinned it on my kitchen bulletin board to watch it shrivel and die as a reminder to not let bitterness take root in my mind and heart.

What might you use as a creative visual to encourage forgiveness for someone in your life?

As We Forgive Our Debtors2022-02-05T11:11:42-07:00

Forgiveness is a Calling

This week we are focusing on the beauty and power of forgiveness. We have challenged you to consider the relational impact of withholding forgiveness. On Sunday, Alex helped us think of forgiveness as a tool for maintaining healthy relationships. All these things are accurate and powerful, but what do we do when we forgive, and the other party does not? Another question might be, what do we do if we forgive, but the relationship is dangerous to us? Should we always reconcile with others?

Forgiveness is what Jesus invites us to pray for and extend to others in this prayer. Forgiveness does not always turn into reconciliation. Reconciliation requires both parties to come together in forgiveness. In Romans 12:18, Paul writes, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” The phrase “if it is possible” is essential in this challenge. It implies that it isn’t always possible. There are times when abuse or a lack of forgiveness from the other party prevents reconciliation.

Jesus teaches us to pray, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” That is an invitation to do everything in our power to reconcile with God and others. The beauty of our request to God is that he extends forgiveness to all who repent. That isn’t always true when there is brokenness between two humans, but forgiveness sets the forgiver free.

Take a moment to do a relationship inventory. How are you doing? Is there anyone you can think of that you have relational tension with? Maybe now is the time to set both you and them free from the thing that separates you. Remember, this may need to happen repeatedly in your heart. Forgiveness is a calling that makes reconciliation possible.

Forgiveness is a Calling2022-02-14T15:37:13-07:00

Forgiveness is not a Feeling

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19 NIV)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isaiah 55:6-7 NIV)

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 NIV)

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV)

Forgiving someone who has hurt you can be a difficult thing to do. But God commands us to forgive one another, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you,” (Colossians 3:13). Focusing on all God has done for us, all he has forgiven us, and the price Jesus has already paid for all of our sins is an important first step in being able to forgive another person. Remember John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus died on the cross so that my sins and everyone’s sins could be forgiven.

Psalm 103:8-12 says, The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

We may have difficulty forgiving someone who has hurt us, or has hurt our loved ones, because we may not “feel” like forgiving that person. Or perhaps we have forgiven someone, yet later we discover we need to forgive that person again, or God reveals to us that we did not fully forgive that person. Forgiving someone is an act of our will, an act of obedience to God’s word and to God’s desire for our lives. It involves us asking for forgiveness from God, and from other people, but it does not depend on our feelings. Sometimes it is ourselves we need to forgive. Forgiving yourself and others may involve a process over time, but it does not depend on a “feeling of forgiveness”.

A helpful exercise might be to write out the offense that you need to forgive, pray about it, ask God to forgive you, and then burn the paper, or shred the paper, and leave the matter in God’s hands.

This article, Guideposts Classics: Corrie ten Boom on Forgiveness, is about Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust concentration camp survivor, who illustrates forgiving her captor, as an act of obedience to God.

Forgiveness is not a Feeling2022-02-14T15:37:45-07:00

Live Debt-Free

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12 ESV)

During my college years a former roommate asked me to lend her the equivalent of $750. She had just married and seemed desperate, so I made the loan. I haven’t seen her since. A few years later I told this story to a Christian friend who laughed and said, “Loaning money like that often ends a friendship.”

After that experience, and a couple others where the personal loan I made was actually repaid, I decided to eliminate complications and instead, as God directs, simply give to meet the need without creating an obligation. I have avoided so much agony by making that decision. (An aside: I won’t address dealings with financial institutions here.)

Intentional creation of interpersonal financial or emotional debt is unwise. Those entanglements arise frequently enough without making them happen on purpose. Here’s what Jesus said about being proactive in living our lives as debt-free as possible:

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:27-38 ESV)

Maybe you’ve always thought of debt-free as never assuming debt upon yourself. These verses address thoughts and actions that keep us free from making others indebted to us. The bonus is that we are promised an abundant reward as we pursue this lifestyle.

Are you in a situation where someone “owes you”? Ask God what steps you can take to forgive that debt. If necessary, seek wise counsel.

Live Debt-Free2022-02-04T11:32:10-07:00

Formation Guide | Week 6

Jesus emphasizes forgiveness in this short prayer, both on behalf of receiving forgiveness from God and on extending forgiveness to others. Read the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13 and ponder how often Jesus had to pray this to his heavenly Father. Imagine the scenes from Jesus’ life where he needed to lean into this part of the prayer. What might Jesus want you to know from his personal experience with forgiveness?

  1. Get Honest … How would you rate yourself by asking for forgiveness? How about receiving forgiveness? How about extending forgiveness? Share with Jesus reasons each one feels particularly challenging for you.
  2. Change Mind … Listen for what Jesus wants to speak into your heart after becoming so honest with him.
  3. Walk Anew … What step might Jesus want you to take in response to what he’s shown you?

FORMATION CHALLENGE … Take a rock to a body of water, while holding the rock agree with God about your sin and cast it into the water to let it go.

Formation Guide | Week 62022-02-04T11:27:45-07:00
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